The celebration of Labour Day should be seen as an opportunity for introspection - introspection on accomplishments, progress made, what could have been done differently and what is required to create a better future. The labour movement in Trinidad and Tobago must be acknowledged for their determined and vigilant pursuit of the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) decent work agenda with respect to the rights of workers and improvements in the world of work.
However, one must recognise that the world of work is in the throes of another period of “disruption”, which will invariably affect both businesses and employees in a significant way. It is for this reason that the Employers Consultative Association of Trinidad and Tobago (ECA) wishes to divert from the traditional labour day message and make a clarion call for social partners to focus our attention on one of the most challenging occurrences we are witnessing in the world of work in this decade.
Over the last three (3) years, we have witnessed a rapid growth in the introduction of artificial intelligence (AI), automation, robotics and digitisation to the world of work. Advances in AI and new communication technologies are fundamentally changing how work gets done, who does it, and its impact on society. Quite naturally, this period of disruption is proving to be a source of tremendous anxiety about potential job losses among employees as businesses explore alternative ways to optimise the use of their human capital. That said, research suggests that while automation can improve scale, speed, and quality, it does not do away with jobs. In fact, it might do just the opposite. According to research emanating from Boston University, occupations with greater levels of computerisation and use of technology experience higher, not lower, employment growth rates. Additionally, we are seeing an increase in jobs that are more service-oriented, interpretive, and social, playing to the essential human skills of creativity, empathy, communication, and complex problem-solving.
This phenomenon has brought with it implications such as an urgent need for new skills and competencies, retraining, retooling and upskilling, a new mindset, and attitudinal changes of our human capital. Businesses must also be prepared to invest in these areas to remain relevant.
As consumers of innovation, it is imperative that we understand these unfolding changes and learn from the experiences of other countries as we craft our own, and for most of us, a delayed response to the “new normal”. Among other things, a proactive response will ensure that we are better able to identify and interpret trends, prepare and adapt to meet challenges and understand how to harness emerging opportunities for sustainable success at the organisational and national levels.
Whether we are ready or not, the future of work has already gained significant traction with vibrant debates taking place around the world. Given its nature and complexity, tackling this new phenomenon requires a highly collaborative, multipronged approach The ECA believes that this new phenomenon presents an ideal opportunity for labour to once again take a leading role in initiating this conversation as a matter of urgency, through available Tripartite mechanisms, with open, honest and respectful conversations.
Now is not the time for any of us as social partners, whether business, Government or labour, to continue passing blame, laying criticisms and demonstrating an unwillingness to take ownership and be held accountable for the future success of our enterprises, our nation and its citizens. The ECA’s message this year is for Tripartite partners to focus on collaboration and outcomes – not blame, with a commitment to a sense of purpose so as to arrive at a consensus in the best interest of our people and the for the development of our nation.
As a signatory to various conventions of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), we already have a strong foundation on which to build but we must adapt in order to progress, if not at least to survive.
The ECA extends best wishes to the Labour movement in Trinidad and Tobago on this 2018 observance of Labour Day and pledges its commitment to actively partnering with its leadership in securing a sustainable future for the people this great nation.
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